It’s slowly becoming an undisputed reality that distracted driving is dangerous and state governments should ban the use of hand held devices behind the wheel. Calling for more research and deterrence, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will host the second annual distracted driving summit in Washington DC this September.
“We’re going to put our heads together, and we’re going to share the latest research, technology, policy, public outreach, and enforcement practices,” wrote LaHood on his blog The Fast Lane. “When we’re done with the summit, we’re going to continue working to put an end to the thousands of needless deaths and injuries caused by distracted driving each year.”
The summit adds to LaHood’s momentum on distracted driving enforcement. Earlier this month, he demolished an anti-distracted driving campaign launched on behalf of electronics lobbyists in Washington. “Regardless of what a powerful lobbying group has to say, the simple fact is that texting and talking on cell phones behind the wheel is a deadly epidemic,” LaHood wrote. “To suggest otherwise is to put your head in the sand. To spend considerable resources to suggest otherwise is a glaring waste.”
Seven states and the district of Columbia have already enacted bans on hand held devices and more than thirty states have approved bans on texting behind the wheel. California has led the way in strong enforcement of distracted driving laws. Even though the state boasts a 60 percent compliance rate with the current law, the state legislature hopes to boost fines from $20 to $50 for a first time distracted driver, and $50 to $100 for repeat offenders.
State Sen. Joe Simitian, who has spearheaded the legislation, says it won’t be long before putting the phone away while driving will be a no brainer. “Enacting seat belt legislation, for example, took a long time,” he told GJEL. “Now it’s routine that when you climb into the car, you buckle the belt. Over time, we’ve gotten 90% compliance on seat belts. It will take time, education, and enforcement.”
One major result of last year’s distracted driving summit was a ban on cell phone use while driving for all government employees. We’re hoping this year’s session will go even further to make the roads safer.
Here’s LaHood discussing the summit on C-SPAN: